RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Education now wants Parliament to help it take back a valuable parcel of land that the former government gave away to international developer Marga Landmark.
The 17.7-acre tract, situated in a prime location close to Rangoon’s Inya Lake and the Sedona Hotel, once belonged to the Ministry of Science and Technology. But in February, during the final months of ex-President Thein Sein’s administration, the Myanmar Investment Commission handed the property to Marga Landmark.
The government gave the land to Marga as compensation after it cancelled a separate project, the US$300 million Dagon City 1 commercial development, in July 2015. Dagon City 1 had to be halted when Buddhist monks and lay people complained about the project’s proximity to Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s holiest Buddhist site.
In April, when the National League for Democracy (NLD) government assumed power, it renamed the Ministry of Science and Technology as a department within the Ministry of Education. Since that time, the Ministry of Education has complained about the land deal. According to the ministry, the land was designated for use as Burma’s first research center on metrology, the scientific study of measurement.
In June, government officials said that Marga Landmark would release nearly half of the 17.7-acre property back to the government.
But the land issue was raised again on Tuesday in Parliament’s Upper House by NLD lawmaker U Maung Maung Ohn, who requested Marga’s development project be relocated once again, this time to a site in the outskirts of Rangoon.
U Win Maw Tun, the Deputy Minister of Education, replied that his ministry does not favor the development project being carried out on its land.
“We want all 17.7 acres back to use for education and research. I would like to make a request to the Parliament to help make that happen,” said U Win Maw Tun.
U Maung Maung Ohn suggested that the Inya Lake site should be reserved only for scientific research and development, as it was once planned.
“Leasing this land which was designated for a research center is like smashing the country’s future. That’s why I raised this issue,” he told the The Irrawaddy.
The NLD lawmaker added that he was not pleased with the response to his question.
“I feel bad because the education ministry said they are relying on Parliament to solve this issue,” said U Maung Maung Ohn. “This shows there is no collaboration between the ministries.”
“As a people’s representative, I think first there should be a debate in the Parliament to decide if the land should go to the developer. After that, the issue can be passed on to the Rangoon divisional government.”
The Irrawaddy’s reporter Htet Naing Zaw contributed reporting from Naypyidaw.